In even the lightest rain event, the city marina roof collects copious amounts of water that simply fill the parking lot and go unused.

Local live aboard pitches cost saving idea to council

After eight and a half years of watching what she calls “a grievous waste of a natural resource,” Middle Keys live aboard boater Jeanne Ketcher has issued an impassioned plea to Marathon council members and city staff.

“Boaters, as a rule, are generally more water conscious,” Ketcher explained this week at Whalton’s Pet Shop, where she also took the personal initiative to recycle at least some of the hundreds of gallons of water cycled through the dozens of fish aquariums each day.

During the nearly six-month record-setting drought of early 2011, Ketcher watched a healthy patch of aloe just outside the store at Gulfside Village dry up to a crispy collection of useless stalks.

“It was my medicine cabinet!” she explained of the plants natural healing powers, adding that customers often came in describing small minor sores on their puppies’ paws; she would promptly snap off a swatch of aloe and tell them to try it as a topical ointment.

Jeannie Ketcher, an employee at Whalton’s Pet Shop in Marathon, used excess water leftover from the daily aquarium cleaning to bring a patch of medicinal aloe in front of the store at Gulfside Village back to life.

Eager to find a fix for her dwindling patch of aloe, Ketcher decided to collect a few buckets of water from daily aquarium cleaning at the pet store.

“It’s necessary to balance the pH level of the water in the aquariums every day,” said store manager Debbie Niccum. “If we can reuse even five gallons of water, we try to do what we can.”

Ketcher’s minimal efforts quickly revived the dried aloe, and her success prompted her to write what she deemed a long overdue letter to the city council and staff.

“Whenever there is a rain event, the roof of the City Marina building collects an amazing amount of rain water,” Ketcher detailed in her letter. “This water passes from a gutter into and through a series of PVC pipes until it exits through a 12-inch opening onto the tarmac and into the harbor. It should be flowing into a holding tank/cistern where it could be collected and used for the following – maintenance, landscaping, toilet flushing and boat washing – to name a few.”

Ketcher said she and her husband keep their water use each week to a mere 30 gallons of water aboard their boat and are never deprived for their needs.

“We use pressurized pumps in our shower and for washing dishes,” she elaborated. She said seasonal increases in boater traffic in the harbor must certainly put a strain on the marina’s water use, particularly in the bathhouse. “If it’s available and free-flowing, people will inevitably just use as much water as possible.”

She further quoted the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority’s annual report that states, “Based on a half gallon of water per square foot of roof area, a 2,000-square foot roof can collect about 600 gallons of water during a half-inch rainfall event.”

“The City Marina roof is approximately 16,000 square feet. Do the math,” she added in her letter.

Marina and Ports Manager Richard Tanner said the biggest impediment to a project he said “just makes sense” would be the complete re-plumbing of the recently constructed bath house and laundry facility as well as construction of collection cisterns and distribution pumps.

In even the lightest rain event, the city marina roof collects copious amounts of water that simply fill the parking lot and go unused.

“It’s a great idea, and we’ve been wanting to do it for years,” Tanner offered, adding that his staff had been actively searching out grant funding for projects like a solar array or community garden for years.

Mayor Ginger Snead added that while she’s always in favor of water conservation and reuse projects, the city’s already tight budget is still being trimmed as much as possible.

“I’d certainly be in favor of exploring options if any monies were to come available for this type of project,” Snead noted, adding that recycled water will soon be more readily available when the Area 3 plant in front of the Community Park comes on line in the near future.

Councilman Pete Worthington said he’d been asking about a rainwater collection system for the City Marina for the past four or five years before Tanner was hired.

“The entire collection system is already there,” Worthington noted of the large gutter on the west side of the former fishery building. “We can’t use that water for bathing or doing laundry, but it certainly has value for water reuse in the park and irrigation.”

At Ketcher’s suggestion of collecting rainwater for toilet flushing at the marina bathhouse, particularly in high use months like January to May, Worthington said, “If we’d have thought about it a year or two ago when we were building it, that would’ve been a great idea.


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